Michael W. Smith and Paul Baloche highlight a solid release from Prestonwood Worship

Songs of the People
Artist: Prestonwood Worship
Label: Integrity Music
Length: 13 tracks/1 hour 15 minutes

Being unfamiliar with Prestonwood Worship, advertised guest appearances by Paul Baloche and Michael W. Smith on Songs of the People caught my attention. Each of them deliver brief but effective performances. Of the two, Baloche plays a larger role being part of three songs. Smith’s sole contribution is the closing “We Are Alive,” which would be at home on any of his live albums. He brings his typical enthusiasm.

Overall, the sound and style is comparable to the mainstream releases in this genre. It’s contemporary but conservative, not edgy or alternative, which widens the possible appeal.

It may falter a little in being distinct from other similar albums. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a few of the subtleties: the string introduction on “You Can Have it All,” which is a performance of “I Surrender All,” and the call and response on “Let the Redeemed” where the choir is prominent.

At least three of the tracks incorporate phrases from hymns, which seems to be a recent trend. The best example is “Our Story Our Song” a truly joyful ode that borrows from Franny Crosby, “This, this is our story/this, this is our song/We are praising, praising our Savior all the day long, all the day long.” These phrases have never sounded better.

This, along with Smith’s anthem “We Are Alive” and Baloche’s “We Turn Our Eyes” are three of the best moments. The latter is quietly worshipful.

The tracks feature a variety of song leaders, only two of them led by women. They all acquit themselves honorably.

These are all new songs performed live at the 42,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church, which has two locations in the Dallas, TX area. It’s one of the largest Southern Baptist congregations in the world. Dr. Jack Graham is the pastor.

Michael Dalton